Steps to a Successful Non-GMO Verification

blog-NonGMO-tops-organicHelpful Information in Getting Verified

Consumers are making their desires known: more non-GMO choices please! Non-GMO Project Verified is now the most sought-after label in natural foods with some brands reporting sales increases of 5% or more in their first year selling Verified products. Retail sales in the Non-GMO Project Verified market as a whole are at $16 billion per year.

So… what can you do to get the Non-GMO Project Verified seal? Or, if you already have products enrolled, how can you speed up and optimize your verification process?

Insights into the Product Verification Program:

Familiarize yourself with the Non-GMO Project Standard

The Non-GMO Project Standard is a document that details the best practices you’ll be following to Verify your products. Learn more.

Learn the biological source of your ingredients

Biological source is a term that refers to the original organisms from which an ingredient is derived before any processing takes place. Learning the biological source of your ingredients gives you insight into which may be “high-GMO risk.” For example, peppermint extract contains low-risk peppermint, but if it is based in an alcohol, the alcohol could be derived from a number of biological sources including high GMO-risk corn. As part of your free cost estimate, FoodChain ID will provide a detailed GMO-risk assessment. The more you know about your ingredients when you request your estimate, the more detailed our guidance will be about what to expect during the evaluation process (about documents, testing, inspections, etc.).

Formulate your products with non-GMO verification in mind

Sourcing from suppliers who already offer Verified ingredients can be helpful, as is switching from high GMO-risk ingredients to low GMO-risk alternatives. For example, you might use low-risk cane sugar in place of beet sugar, or low-risk tapioca starch instead of corn starch.

Allow plenty of time between product development and label printing

It can take about a month to verify simple, low GMO-risk products. For more complex formulas such as those found in supplements, dermaceutical, neutraceutical, and cleaning products, allow as long as a few months. The timeline will depend on how quickly you can provide the required information.

Consult with FoodChain ID for a free cost estimate GMO-risk assessment

As part of our free cost estimate we’ll assign GMO-risk values to your ingredients, guide you in what to expect during verification and provide an estimate showing how much you can expect to spend for verification. After we review your product information, our guidance could include an assessment on the eligibility of your animal derived inputs; what you’ll need to change to make them eligible; suggestions for preparing major or high GMO-risk ingredients for evaluation (e.g., switching suppliers, reducing the percentage presence in the final product, etc.); and how organic certification can support your process.

Prepare your suppliers

Ask your suppliers if they would be willing to share ingredient and processing information which could include a disclosure of all inputs and processing aids, including substrates or growing media for cultured inputs. For complex, high GMO-risk ingredients, this may be a process flow chart. Ask your suppliers if they can demonstrate that they produce their ingredients in a system designed to avoid GMOs. This is commonly a certified organic or Identity Preservation (IP) program. It could also be demonstrated in traceability and segregation record documents. After you’re enrolled with FoodChain ID, we will let you know specifically what to request from each supplier; but knowing they are able to accommodate your pending information requests is helpful.

Note that Non-GMO declarations are generally unacceptable for verification because such statements are not currently regulated. The most reliable method of determining GMO-risk status is to review ingredient statement forms or process flow charts from suppliers.  Sourcing ingredients from non-GMO regions such as the European Union does not ensure automatic approval. Different countries, including those in the EU, have varying non-GMO policies; a detailed review of all ingredients, despite country of origin, will be required for verification.

Prepare your manufacturing facility

If you own a manufacturing facility, ensure that your traceability and segregation systems are thoroughly documented. If you use a co-packer, ask for their cooperation in demonstrating that there are strong traceability and segregation practices in place.

Use an NGP-Approved testing laboratory

If testing is necessary for your verification, you’ll need to use a Non-GMO Project-approved laboratory. FoodChain ID’s sister company, Genetic ID, was the first testing laboratory and an advisory lab to the Project. They can provide testing recommendations, sampling strategies and testing services.

Find lists of non-GMO compliant ingredient sources

If you are enrolling products from a specialty sector such as supplements, dermaceuticals or nutraceuticals, consider joining a group of industry colleagues with whom you can work in developing lists of Verified ingredient sources.  An example of this is the Dietary Supplement Working Group, a collective of manufacturers and their suppliers who work together in the development of compliant vitamin sources which are shared by anyone requesting the information.

Learn whether testing and/or inspections will be required

FoodChain ID will let you know if testing and/or inspections will be necessary for your verification. Generally, testing is only required if a high GMO-risk input is present at greater than 5% of the dry weight in the final product. In addition, if high GMO-risk is present at between 0.5% and 5% of the final product, then organic certification or other confirmation that the input was produced in a system designed to avoid GMOs should suffice.  If inspections are required, we will provide inspectors and coordinate inspections at a reduced cost.

By preparing for these steps, you can get ahead of the curve and on the way to Non-GMO Project verification.